- What’s wrong with football, and what solutions could resolve the issues?
- There are some days out with Arsenal that stay in the memory, and that was one
By Tony Attwood
In previous seasons we regularly ran an analysis of how clubs varied in terms of the tackles, fouls and yellow cards they got, and rather interesting those figures were too.
For in doing this we discovered among other things a most curious set of figures which showed that Leicester put in 112 more tackles than Arsenal that season, but committed three fewer fouls, and got 45 yellow cards fewer than Arsenal. It was the “Leicester event” – as no other club had figures like this. We made quite a fuss, and remarkably almost immediately the Leicester figures started to change as referees seemed to become aware that the club was getting away with tackles that no other club was able to.
As the refs tightened up and brought Leicester into line, so Leicester City slipped down the league. (A similar event was discovered later in which Vardy started to win penalties which had it continued all season would have given Leicester a record number of penalties in one season. We publicised that too – and curiously the penalties then also stopped just as the lack of cards had changed before. But it was all probably just a coincidence and due to other factors as the Leicester fans at the time told us – although their specific explanations were shown to be wrong).
Since then we have taken a particular interest in tackles, fouls and yellow cards and considered the historic context. In 2015/16 the average number of yellow cards per game was 3.12. By 2019/20 it was 3.37. This season after 100 games that figure is now 4.61 per game. A leap of over a third since 2019/20! And that is just yellows for fouls, excluding yellows for other reasons.
We’ve continued with this analysis until this season when suddenly, the way yellow cards were dished out by referees changed.
Last season for example the number of yellow cards per club ranged from 44 (Manchester City) to 84 (Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton). That’s from 1.15 per match to 2.21 per match.
This season after 10 games the range is from 15 (1.5 per match for Arsenal and Everton) to exactly double that at 30 (3 per match) for Tottenham and Chelsea. That is a jump from one season to the next of 30% for the lowest-carded clubs and a jump of 36% for the highest-carded clubs. An enormous change in one year!
However many more of the yellow cards being awarded this season are no longer to do with fouling, whereas in past seasons almost every yellow card was for a fouling offence. And so it was immediately clear to us, that if we were to continue our analysis of tackles, fouls and yellow cards as a unified set of data, we needed to find a source of data that gave us cards for fouls separated from cards for other reasons.
We finally found it (courtesy of WhoScored) but then I stupidly misunderstood the data as WhoScored presented some figures such as tackles as “per game,” while other data (such as yellow cards) was “for the season thus far.” Worse, a very patient correspondent had to point this out to me at least twice before I tumbled what was going on. My fault totally.
Although I can’t see why Who Scored do it. Why not have “per game” throughout? The only reason we can think of is because it makes the difference between the ways different clubs are treated by referees much less obvious. There is an example of this here where “shots” is per game but “discipline” is for “the season so far”.
So, I feel very silly, but let’s start again, because this data is pretty interesting.
First, the basic figures show that Tottenham are tackling 43% more than Manchester City, and producing 42% more fouls than Manchester City – and that sounds about right. But even though we are only counting yellow cards for fouls (and not for anything else, like time wasting), Tottenham are getting 122% more yellow cards than Manchester City. Here’s the table. Notice each column is PG (per game)!!!
|Team||Tackles pg||Fouls pg||Yellow for fouls PG|
Now the thing to notice is that there is a very close linkage between tackles and fouls, in that the club undertaking the most tackles out of our selected seven clubs is tackling 43% more than the club tackling the least. And the club with the most fouls is fouling 42% more than the club fouling the least. All very reasonable.
But this relationship breaks apart with yellow cards for fouls. The difference between the number of yellow cards for the least carded club (Manchester City) and the most (Chelsea) is 122%.
Chelsea are picking up more than double the number of yellows for fouls that Manchester City are getting. But they are only committing 27% more fouls.
The adventure continues in the next article.
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying
- Where there is power, money and greed there is corruption